The good stress

When I think of “stress,” my brain starts whirring, my heart starts pounding, I start to sweat, and I’m not happy. Most people, I think, react the same way to most stress. In fact, the World Health Organization defines stress as “any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain.” And when this type of stress continues, it can become “distress” which leads to anxiety and overwhelm. But there is a “good” stress – called “eustress.” 

Stress can be beneficial

Eustress can be a beneficial emotion, leading to “positive emotional arousal, leading to activation and engagement” with the world around us, according to a paper in the National Library of Medicine. 

Exercise is stressful, but "good" stress.
Exercise is “good” stress

So, eustress is “manageable, acute, and short-term.” Think of exercise as an example. We’re placing stress on our bodies when we exercise. But exercise by definition is short-term, and the stress we put our bodies in is acute – we voluntarily raise our heart rates or work our muscles in a way that’s different from their normal state. And the reason that we exercise is to become more fit, release endorphins and improve our mental well-being.

Nurtures our well-being

“Eustress is the physical, mental, and/or emotional tension that is placed on the mind and body when we engage in activities that actually nurture our well-being and foster growth,” says Andra Brown, a NY-based licensed mental health counselor who specializes in anxiety, racial identity, and stress. Brown says that eustress can make us excited and motivated. When we feel eustress, we feel compelled to act in a positive manner. Our mindset improves when we’re under eustress. And when we act positively, our resilience grows.

If I get an idea for an article, and I know it’s a good one, I’m fired up. I open a new Google Document and write rapid-fire until that idea is down in black and white. 

Stress and exercise

I’m not excited to exercise, as you know. But, once I push “Play,” the music comes on and the instructor gives the first direction, I start moving and can forget about everything else. Good stress indeed!

Public speaking can even be eustressful

Brown emphasizes that eustress triggers can increase productivity. Think about the last time you spoke in front of a small group of friends about a subject you’re passionate about. Even though public speaking may usually terrify you, when it’s about a topic that’s near and dear to your heart, you probably spoke eloquently and far more succinctly than you believed you could.

As you’ve seen in previous articles, exercise generates energy. Even if I’m tired before a workout, I feel energized afterward! Exercise, therefore, is positive stress. It feeds our body and mind.

I try to combine distress and eustress

Listening to the news, on the other hand, is “distress.” It brings on feelings of anxiety and is practically debilitating. I do like to know what’s going on in the world, though, so I pair watching the national news every day with a calming Sudoku puzzle. On one hand, I’m anxious, but on the other, I’m solving a puzzle. I’m hoping that the eustress outweighs the distress. Indeed, Brown says that during moments of eustress, we are able to perceive certain challenges as less threatening.

So, there’s no need to fear stress – just do everything you can to make it good stress.

True happiness may not be what you think

When you think of being “happy,” what comes to mind? Is it smiling ear-to-ear? Or a big belly laugh? That expression of happiness, though, is not really sustainable. It’s impossible to have mind-blowing joy every minute. We need to sleep sometimes, right? And at this stage of life, happiness should be sustainable and not exhausting. To me, happiness is contentment raised up a notch or two.

true happiness

True happiness is the feeling you get when all is right in your world. When you see beauty and can actually pause and reflect on it for a moment. Knowing that you can share that moment with family and friends and they’ll understand your happiness in the beauty you see. My vision of happiness also revolves around the idea of positivity going forward. Thinking of being happy not just now but in the future. Our resilience grows from that idea of true happiness.

Lots of moments of joy

These days, moments of joy occur when my dogs “get it!” When the dogs seem to have light bulbs above their heads. If Simon sits and actually stays until I tell him it’s okay to move. That’s a huge moment of joy for me. I know that my training is paying off and if I enter a competition, then we’ll have a prayer of succeeding. Lesser moments of joy occur in just sitting with my dogs, though. I don’t need outside validation to be happy with them. But it’s not just my dogs that make me deep-down happy – seeing the deep purple crocus poke their heads out of the soil fills my soul. I choose happiness every day.

Happiness may have a goal orientation

I’m looking to the future in happiness. I’m preparing to be happy then, too. My goals are part of the foundation for future happiness. As writer Christopher Boyce puts it, “have goals but be prepared to let them go.” Think about your future self – how you want to live, what you want to do. Make goals to achieve that life. And, of course, set your intermediate goals to get you there. But if you’re not happy when you’re working toward those goals, set new ones. Life is a journey. If we’re not happy at any point for sustained periods, we need to change course. 

True Happiness May Take a While

Years ago, my sister and I owned an RV, stored in Marathon, Florida. We would take separate vacations there, driving down from our home near Chicago with our dogs. It’s a 24-hour drive, so we each took 3 days to get there – essential with dogs. No, the drive was not fun. It was sometimes nerve-wracking, but the end result was worth it. So, sometimes thinking ahead a little bit makes the unhappy part insignificant. We overcome obstacles to get to that happy future. And part of that future is being as fit and healthy as possible to enjoy it.

Tears Along the Way

Happiness is multi-faceted. There’s bad mixed in with mostly good. There may be tears along the way, but an overall happy life can sustain setbacks, grief and sadness. When you’re content at the end of most days – isn’t that happiness?

Invisible benefits of exercise

I agree with Khloe Kardashian

I’m not a Kardashian fan. I don’t follow any of them. But I read an article about how Khloe Kardashian loves the invisible benefits of exercise, and I have to agree with her. Kardashian turns to exercise for the “mental release” it gives her. Exercise gives her power over her life – it’s one thing she can actually control. And it’s true – you decide what kind of exercise you want to do. You decide when to do it. How hard to exercise, and how long your session should be. I choose to exercise at an intense level. I get the most out of the 30 minutes I’m willing to spend on exercise.

It’s not about the scale

It’s not about losing weight – Kardashian says she hasn’t stepped on a scale in ages. Because a scale is just numbers. If you’re happy with how you feel, how your clothes fit, and you’re healthy, then your weight shouldn’t matter so much. 

Exercise for confidence

An intense workout makes me happier.
An intense workout leaves me happier in a short amount of time

Kardashian also extols the confidence that exercise gives her. We’re powerful when we improve our heart, our muscles and our bones. Exercise not only improves our physical health, but our mental health too. The mental release is one of the invisible benefits Khloe Kardashian finds in exercise. I’ve often written that when I’m in a bad mood, my sister won’t talk to me until after my workout. I’m in a much better mood then. The endorphins released during an intense workout make me happier and makes everyone less depressed. After a good workout, we’re much more able to face any difficulties with the confidence boost we get.

Improve your mindset with exercise

Exercise is good for your mindset too. That’s another invisible benefit of exercise. Kardashian admits to previously having unrealistic goals, like cutting out all sugar or working out five days a week. But now, with her consistent fitness practice, Kardashian is all about seeing exercise as a tool for wellness. And that’s a very healthy outlook. I don’t exercise because I want to fit into Size 2 jeans. That’s never going to happen. I exercise because I want to remain strong and independent, and do the things I want to do. Exercise is part of my healthy aging routine.

Your body is not ready for the time change

No one is ready for the time change, but you can mitigate its effect on your body.
No one is ready for the time change, but you can mitigate its effect.

Get ready! Daylight Saving Time starts this weekend. So, not only do we start off sleep-deprived, but we actually lose another hour of sleep. Your body is not ready for the time change. The Centers for Disease Control has a guideline for the number of hours of sleep we all need each night, but I don’t personally know anyone who is successful in getting that amount of sleep. And yet sleep is essential for our physical and mental health. Lack of quality sleep has been linked to obesity and depression. It’s also easier to bounce back from all the little things that go wrong every day when we start the day refreshed.

Is your room dark enough?

Like most Americans, I start each day feeling groggy and wooly-brained. My brain churned for a while before I fell asleep, and, while I don’t have a sleep tracker, I know that my sleep was not as beneficial as it could be. A darkened room and turning screens off early are effective, but just to a certain extent. 

Get ready for jet lag without going anywhere

Changing our clocks for Daylight Saving Time is like traveling to a different time zone. So we’re going to feel the effects of jet lag to some degree. We’re all going east one time zone this weekend. So, according to Dr. Innessa Donskoy, sleep specialist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, we can prepare our bodies for that time change as if we were traveling. (It may be a little late now, but remember this for the fall.)

Dr. Donskoy says that to mitigate the physical effects of the time change, we should expose ourselves to light a few minutes earlier each day. Starting tomorrow, wake up fifteen minutes earlier and turn your light on. Actually open your eyes to the blinding glare and just start moving on with your day. This will allow your body to get ready for the time change.

And plan now to do something useful with those extra few minutes you’ll get the next few days. Get in a few more minutes of exercise. If the weather allows, take your dog for an extra-long walk. Write a chapter in that book you’re working on. Or read a chapter! You can log an  entry in your journal. Whatever you choose to do, do it! Get your body ready for the time change. Even if you can’t build up to the time change, get up earlier tomorrow. Or, if it’s too late to get ready for this spring, be kind to yourself. Take your dog for a walk anyway.

3 tips to make working out easier

Make working out easier on yourself. This is not to say that you should make your workouts easy. Rather, make it easy to exercise and get the full benefit of that exercise, especially for our healthy aging.

Get the maximum benefits

You know that there are many benefits to exercise. I wrote about this ‘way back in 2015! From the physical benefits to your bones, muscles, heart, lungs – to mental benefits, like improved memory and cognition and improved sleep. So, we still have to get our workouts in. So, to make sure that we get the most out of our workouts, here are 3 tips to make working out easy:

Tip #1 – Know yourself

My workouts are more intense with an instructor calling the moves.
My workouts are more intense with an instructor calling the moves.

If you’re the kind of person who’s a go-getter and won’t slow down or take out lighter weights, good for you. But I know that I won’t work at maximum intensity if I did a workout on my own. My powered treadmill ensures I don’t slow down. I need an instructor to make sure I get in all my reps. So, I shove in an exercise DVD and follow the instructor. I know that I’m working and not easing off.

Tip #2 – You’ll do it if you like it

Do a workout you like – or at least, don’t mind doing. If I look at my calendar and see that a workout I don’t care for is on today’s schedule, I might just find something else that needs to get done. Like cleaning out my sock drawer. Even though running is not my favorite exercise, I like the audiobook I’m listening to. And my time on the treadmill is the only time I listen. So I run. 

Tip #3 – Clear motivation

Know why you’re exercising. And it’s probably not for the physical and mental benefits. It’s to make sure that you can keep up with the grandkids. You exercise because you want to travel and walk around the cities you visit. Or you just want to take long walks with your significant other. For me – I want to run my dog in Agility. And I want to eat chocolate.

When you know what it takes to get the maximum benefit from your workout, when you know the kind of workout you like doing, and when you know why you’re exercising, you’re making your workouts easier on yourself. You know that you’ll get the maximum impact from the minimum time you spend on exercising.

Harness your anxiety

The last couple of years have shown most of the world that anxiety can be generalized and no one is immune from it. Everyone has had some degree of anxiety for most of the last two years. And it doesn’t seem to be easing up. I’ve written about what to do to ease your anxiety, but what would happen if we could harness our anxiety and make it work for us?

The possibilities are practically endless

I think of all the worries we, collectively, have expressed the past several months and am just floored by the possibility of the anxious energy that could have been put to good use. If I could have harnessed my anxiety, I could have another book written. Our leaders could have developed a plan for world peace. On second thought, maybe not that last one.

But, if we could harness our anxiety, our productivity would soar! 

Put your anxiety to use

Matt Higgins, author of Burn the Boats: Toss Plan B Overboard and Unleash Your Full Potentialexplains four ways to put your anxiety to good use.

Tip #1 – Find supporting data

Matt’s first tip is to find a study to reassure you. Matt was worried about how his lack of sleep might affect his performance in a marathon. So, he found results from a study indicating that sleep deprivation did not matter in marathon performance. Of course, the study did find that mental performance was adversely affected, but not physical. Matt competed in that marathon and improved his time by a significant amount.

Data is not always reassuring, but somebody somewhere will have gone through what you are, so a quick search is worth the effort.

Tip #2 – Meditate

Meditation boosts resilience.
Meditate with a friend…

The second tip: meditate daily. “Meditation has been shown to boost resilience, emotional intelligence, creativity, relationships, and focus—and I’m going to be another voice telling you that it should be a key tool in your anxiety tool kit.” I recently decided to meditate for a short time every day. Just a couple of minutes. Sometimes it’s a guided meditation, other times I just sit with my eyes shut and take my brain on a mini-vacation. Matt says he’s not perfect about his new daily meditation habit, but firmly believes in it, as self-care is essential.

Tip #3 – Add people

Next – add people to your cause. I’m a firm believer in friends and community. And when your friends join you in a cause, it’s just natural that your joint anxiety plummets. Not to mention, you get a ton of stuff done. But pick the right friends – every person has different beliefs and ways of getting things done.

Tip #4 – Acknowledge that you need help

Finally – don’t hesitate to ask for help. Acknowledge that you need help. Don’t forget that being vulnerable is one step to growing your self-confidence. Matt tells of a friend whose anxiety manifested in ways that were negatively affecting his performance at work. He intervened and helped the friend to tone down the intensity of his emotions. That friend went on to a succeed in a very difficult profession.

So – make your anxiety work for you. First – narrow down the subject of your anxiety and then identify ways of making it be productive for you.

Think Small … and Big

Achieving small goals may make you happier.
Achieving small goals may make you happier

You know I like to divide my big goals into bite-sized pieces. That way I can celebrate all the small wins on the way to that big one. But I’ve also learned to think small … and big. Just because I have big goals doesn’t mean those are the only ones. I also have small goals to achieve. And those are the ones that may be keeping me happiest.

Goals changed with the pandemic

Writer Alexis Jones admits to also being on the small goals bandwagon. Not too long ago Alexis was focused on the big career goals, her 5-year plan. But then the pandemic hit. Everything was uncertain. Plans were canceled, no one went into work. Most goods were delivered. Businesses were shuttered. 

The world changed, and made Alexis take a hard look at her goals. They didn’t make sense at the moment, so she adjusted her thinking. Alexis still worked at her long-term goals, but she also made smaller and more immediate and personal goals. She made a goal of a consistent mid-day walk to clear her mind. Alexis also reached out to friends to maintain relationships that had been neglected. As a result, Alexis says she’s closer to some goals she felt were too big to tackle, like improving her mental health and mending relationships.

Achieving small goals sets you on the path to bigger things

Psychotherapist Natalie Jones says that Alexis is not alone. Achieving small goals is a sure-fire way to put you on the path to achieving larger goals. “Micro goals are the ones that really sort of help us to feel good about ourselves,” says Dr. Jones. And not just that. Achieving small goals gives us the momentum to look forward to bigger things. When we accomplish the small things, it helps us know how to go about setting and achieving the bigger goals, or “give us data to gauge about ourselves and what it’s going to take in order for us to get the big stuff done,” Dr. Jones says.

My own mini-goals? I decided to meditate for 2 minutes a day a few weeks ago. I take my brain on a mini-vacation. Sometimes I listen to a guided meditation. Other times I just sit with my eyes closed. Other times I just picture my favorite spot by the water and listen to the waves. I think I’m happier, calmer, and more reasonable as a result.

So, think small … and big, for your happiness.

Best motivation to exercise

What's the best motivation to exercise - and keep on exercising?
I need motivation to keep exercising

Most of us don’t exercise just because we feel like it. And it’s not for a general thing like, “Exercise is good for our healthy aging.” I know that doesn’t work for me… I need a specific reason to exercise – motivation, in psychology terms. My motivation to exercise comes from inside and outside myself. I know the health reasons to exercise are many, and I also know that if I exercise I’ll burn calories and I can eat more. I also know that if I exercise I’ll fit into my pants – and I’m vain enough to not buy a larger size. We all feel internal and external (intrinsic and extrinsic) motivation for pretty much everything we do. So what’s the best motivation to exercise?

First – what is intrinsic motivation? 

Have you ever been curious about something and took it upon yourself to find out more about it? Do some in-depth research just for your own gratification? For example, years ago I was curious about the best conditions for raising a particular species of orchid. So I did some research and found that the eastern-facing windows in our little sunroom had the perfect light for this species. So I got little hangers for the orchids and they just went crazy, growing and blooming every year. That’s intrinsic motivation. I was motivated by my own curiosity to find out more. There was no reward, other than the information I gleaned.

Extrinsic motivation

By contrast, then, extrinsic motivation implies that a reward will be conveyed when the task is completed. Completing a job for payment is extrinsic motivation.

What kind of motivation will keep us exercising?

To keep on exercising, it’s best to have both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The only way we’re going to keep doing something that’s hard, that makes us sweat and our muscles shake, is if we get something more out of it than a future potential benefit. Just because I lose a pants size 3 months from now (the reward) is not going to get me on the treadmill this afternoon. But, what will get me on the treadmill? The satisfaction of knowing that I’m doing something good for my body. Also, the fact that I know I’ll be in a much better mood when I’m done will get me pushing up the speed and the incline.

So, the best motivation to exercise is both internal and external. Think about your own reasons for exercising. Are they important? Do you feel or see a reward every time you exercise? Or is it just the knowledge that your future self will benefit? If that’s the case, try to think closer to the present. You may need to adjust your goals. You’ll keep at it longer.

Pick a new hobby for your health

Pick a new hobby for your health! One of mind: hang out with dogs!
Pick a new hobby for your health! One of mind: hang out with dogs!

It’s winter. It’s cold. I don’t want to go outside for any length of time. I don’t want to go anywhere because, well, it’s cold. But staying home is dull. What to do? Start something new. Pick a new hobby for your mental health! Dr. Eric Smiltneek, a family medicine and addiction medicine doctor at Aurora Behavioral Health, says that hobbies have “great value for our happiness and positivity.” In short, hobbies are good for our mental health. 

Do your research, but pick one!

There are so many things to choose among that could hold our interest. Do your research – think of hobbies that you could picture yourself doing, then find out if there is special equipment or knowledge that would be useful in pursuing that hobby. But according to Dr. Smiltneek, don’t spend too much time on that research. Pick a new hobby and start getting happy.

The macaron experiment

Last year I made French macarons. I … almost … perfected the piping technique. I got those perfect little “feet” on the pastry, the outer crunch and inner fudginess. The sizes of the macarons were kind of random, but the finished products were delicious. And while I was in macaron baking mode, the rest of the world slipped away. 

Hobbies lower stress and grow happiness

Hobbies are great for lowering stress, anxiety and blood pressure. People who enjoy hobbies are at lower risk for depression. Growing our optimism grows our happiness, and leads to greater resilience. And we all need resilience for our healthy aging.

And hobbies grow our resilience

And people who enjoy hobbies can do it either individually or in a group. One recommendation for growing our resilience is to make connections with others. Hobbies can help us do that. When we’re in a group enjoying a hobby, we automatically have something in common. It’s easier to talk to others about that thing we have in common. If I were to continue my macaron-baking hobby, I’d certainly join a class to improve my piping skills! 
For more on meeting every challenge and growing your own resilience, download the ebook today.

5 Tips for Budget-Friendly Self-Care

If your idea of “self-care” is a high-end spa, think again. We all need self-care. It’s not an indulgence. We’re all wired tightly these days, and anything we can do to improve our mindset, grow our resilience, and do what we need to do for our healthy aging is helpful. But when we think of “self-care,” we think of facials, massage, and one-to-one training. Here are some tips for budget-friendly self-care that will leave you feeling like a million bucks.

What is “self-care?”

First – what, exactly, is “self-care?” According to Dr. Jennette Berry, a family medicine physician, it’s “anything that helps you recharge and take care of yourself so, in turn, you’ll be well to take care of the people who count on you.”

Budget-friendly or free!


Exercise. Get moving! You think I’m a fitness nut because I recommend exercise at every turn? Maybe so, but exercise not only helps with your weight loss goals, it also gives you energy. Exercise helps you fight disease and boosts your immunity. It helps you sleep at night. It aids in our healthy aging goals. And exercise puts you in a better mood! So, go outside for a brisk walk. Or check out popular YouTube fitness videos. Many gyms offer complementary first-classes. See if you like one of those before you make a longer-term commitment.


Meditation is an extremely budget-griendly self-care process.
Meditating lets your brain go on vacation.

Check out for a few minutes. Sit comfortably and think of absolutely nothing. It’s like your brain going on vacation for a bit. If you can’t turn your mind off, do a guided meditation. Dr. Berry says that meditation helps lower stress, controls anxiety and improves sleep. Download my short guided Garden Walk meditation. Less than 5 minutes and you’ll feel more calm. 

Take a bath

Dr. Berry says that the hot water will help you sleep and is also beneficial for aches and pains. Why not try some aromatherapy with bath salts while you’re at it? Lavender is soothing and smells wonderful.


Writing in a journal daily can help track your moods and symptoms. It can also help track your triggers – the things that happen or people say that start your feelings of stress and anxiety. Journaling your gratitude can also improve your mindset and help you get happier. You can’t be unhappy if you’re grateful. And journaling about your day can also help your memory.

Read books

Exercise your mind. Books can take you on adventures you can’t even dream about. They help you learn about other people and other cultures. Public libraries now offer not only hard copies of books, but also digital and audio-books as well. Dr. Berry says that reading is not only relaxing, it can also slow the progression of dementia.

How many of these budget-friendly self-care steps do you do daily? Easy, soothing and painless – they all contribute to our resilience and healthy aging.